Flow Jamaica will in a matter of months launch a new product that will literally allow subscribers to walk around with cable television in their pockets and .
The initiative, which will synchronise triple-play services to mobile devices, is part of a wider project by Flow's parent Columbus Communications, to be rolled out in regional markets.
The Jamaica operation has invested US$10 million (J$900m) to unify existing telephone systems to deliver television and calling services across tablets, smartphones and personal computers, Flow told the Financial Gleaner.
The product, dubbed 'Flow ToGo', is described as a multi-screen app which will also allow travelling subscribers to use the mobile devices to make telephone calls from, say the United States, as if they were calling from their own home phones back in Jamaica or elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Otherwise described as a home-phone-to-go system, it has been developed by Toronto, Canada-based software company UXP Systems on its Multi-screen Interaction Platform (MINT) using voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) infrastructure.
"We are going to essentially eliminate not only long-distance charges, not only minute charges and roaming charges, but even local calling charges," said Columbus Communications Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brendan Paddick at a demonstration of the system in May.
The company will be seeking to build on what it said is the emerging trend of multiple platforms to access on-line products and services.
"Customers will be able to use smart devices such as iPads, iPhones, iPods, Android devices, PCs and Macs to take their Flow products ToGo anywhere there is Internet access," the company said in emailed responses to the Financial Gleaner.
The Flow ToGo app can be installed on the named devices no matter the mobile service provider, but users have to be Flow Internet subscribers in order to activate it. The app will work with any high-speed connection, the cable company said.
Flow ToGo will incorporate offerings such as video content to include cable TV channels in both standard and high-definition formats, video on demand, personal video recording, parental control and social media integration.
Flow said it is yet to determine how many television channels it will be offering "as negotiations are in progress with the channel providers in order to clear content for broadcast across this platform".
Columbus Communications's move to introduce the product was predicated on changing consumer behaviour, including the way they watch television and use technology to connect.
"Simply put, they want more flexibility and convenience," said Flow Jamaica, which is headed by president Michelle English.
No configuration of the network is required to establish the service.
"Gemini and his team came and make it work with our legacy system. We didn't change a thing," said Paddick, referring to UXP Systems founder and Chief Executive Officer Gemini Waghmare, during an interview at the annual Cable Show Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, in May this year.
"This innovation is only possible because of the infrastructure that Columbus Communications has built in Jamaica and the region. The network is the most modern and robust in the region and enables future innovations and advanced technologies," Flow told the Financial Gleaner.
Waghmare, who conducted the first live demonstration of Flow ToGo at the cable conference in Boston, said in an interview posted on the Internet, "What's different about what we are doing is that it isn't just about video everywhere."
UXP has enabled Flow's full triple-play service using UXP Systems's MINT platform, said Waghmare, while illustrating how the system works by using a tablet computer to make a call from Boston, using a home phone number in Trinidad as if he was were calling from the Caribbean island.
"We've taken VOIP infrastructure and we can now have home-phone-to-go," he said.
Subscribers will also have seamless access to their calling history from any screen anywhere.
"So instead of using Skype, why don't you take your home phone wherever you want ToGo and don't pay for roaming charges when you are travelling," said Waghmare.
Paddick said given that Columbus Communications operates in a setting dominated by legacy networks, the cable company had to position as innovators offering multiple services in a multi-screen environment.
"This is very much part of our core strategy. We aim to be the disruptors as opposed to the disrupted," he said.
Columbus Communications currently has a landline penetration of about 17 per cent across markets, which Paddick considers to be low.
The Flow ToGo project has been 18 months in the making. The home phone aspect of the service has already been launched in Trinidad.
'We aim to be the disruptors as opposed to the disrupted.'